Morehouse College President John Silvanus Wilson and Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell issued letters yesterday, addressing allegations of a rape of a Spelman freshman student by four unidentified Morehouse students.
Yesterday, many of you read on social media a disturbing account of sexual violence against a Spelman woman. I know that members of our Spelman community join me in expressing heartbreak and outrage over the incidents and experiences recounted on Twitter. Because the Twitter account is anonymous, I tweeted an invitation to @RapedAtSpelman to reach out to me personally so I, and the College, can provide full assistance and support. We continue to follow leads to identify the victim to offer our help and services.
Sexual violence of any kind is destructive to our students, our academic environment and our sense of social justice. There have been questions in social media about Spelman’s responses to reports of sexual assaults. I provide you now with an update on Spelman’s Title IX programs:
- The College has been at work actively building a larger Title IX team.
• A new dean of students, Dr. Fran’cee Brown-McClure, has been hired and the search for a new Title IX and compliance director has been completed. Dr. Brown-McClure has years of experience working on Title IX issues and has joined Spelman from Stanford University, where she most recently served as associate dean of residential education. Dr. Terri Reed will continue to serve as the interim Title IX and compliance director until the new director arrives.
• We plan to hire additional staff to advocate for victims/survivors. Our expectation is that this person will be in place for the next academic year.
- A faculty advisory committee and a student commission on sexual violence have been established to provide input on a range of issues. The faculty advisory committee has begun their work and at the top of their list is finalizing a climate survey for dissemination early in the fall. The student commission has met several times and is finalizing a proposal for a 2016-2017 calendar of activities around issues of safety, prevention, training and victims’ services.
- The College is in the midst of an in-depth review of all Spelman’s policies, practices and training materials related to all reports of sexual violence.
- All materials and communications will continue to make it unambiguously clear that “blaming the victim is unacceptable.”
My first priority as Spelman’s president is to continue ensuring that Spelman and the Atlanta University Center offer a safe, supportive environment for all students. Please know that we are working together to foster a culture and climate that assure fair, swift and consistent adjudication of reported cases of sexual violence.
I encourage and welcome your help and voices in this cause. Together, we can make a difference, as many of you did yesterday in your peaceful campus demonstrations at Spelman and Morehouse. I urge you to continue to express your opposition to sexual violence and I stand with you in your efforts to call attention to areas that need to be addressed and improved.
The involvement and dedication of the entire Spelman and AUC community is essential for making transformational change. I encourage anyone who has experienced sexual violence or has information about a sexual assault to immediately report this information to law enforcement and the Spelman College Office of Public Safety or Title IX Office. We will fully investigate all reports to us and will provide the appropriate support and services.
I am deeply troubled by the recent allegations that have been anonymously stated on Twitter alleging that a Spelman student was assaulted by four unidentified Morehouse students. At Morehouse, we take seriously all allegations of sexual assault and we are redoubling our efforts to ensure that our students and students throughout the Atlanta University Center are encouraged to report any such incidents. Both our Office of Campus Safety and the Title IX Office have been activated to fully investigate the allegations with the limited information that we have.
As I have stated before, sexual assault is a critically important issue at Morehouse College and we are committed to working with the entire Morehouse community to examine the cultural norms that underscore and perhaps exacerbate this difficult issue, while also ensuring that our policies, procedures and practices are aligned with the federal law and provide swift and fair outcomes. We are also determined that our approach to addressing this serious matter is informed by the loftiest values of this institution. Sexual assault is a heinous form of violence and it is a stark contradiction to Morehouse College at its best.
The information anonymously shared on Twitter was our very first indication of this incident. Now that we are aware of these allegations, we are determined to pursue the investigation to the fullest extent possible.
I encourage any victim of sexual assault to report the incident to our Title IX office, the Office of Campus Safety, or any other mandatory reporter. Morehouse is determined to create, shape and maintain an environment where victims are supported and feel free to report any incident of sexual assault, trusting that they have Morehouse as an ally. We are determined to change the culture on and around campus, and “get right” a problem that has confounded the industry of higher education and the country. We must all work together to shape an environment and culture where sexual violence committed against our students or by our students is not tolerated.
As most students now prepare to leave our campus for the summer, we ask that you return in the fall fully prepared to join in the fight against a scourge that has traumatized too many for far too long.